Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lost in Translation

Just because I have never owned Toyota does not disqualify me from weighing in on the current Toyota controversy. I have read Shogun (twice) and watched BOTH "Flags of our Fathers" and "Letters from Iwo Jima" so I know that SOMEBODY on the Toyota team should be doing the honorable thing right about now and if your knowledge of Japanese culture is as extensive as mine, you know what I mean.

I am troubled by one thing though. All day yesterday they played clips of the 911 call Chris Lastrella made from the doomed Lexus as it hurtled toward oblivion. This is just me talking but I think the last thing going through my mind in a similar situation would be "hey, let's call 911." Granted, in stressful situations people don't always act rationally but Lastrella had two options, neither of which he apparently tried: shifting the car into neutral and turning off the ignition. It wasn't his car so why would he care about screwing it up? So if you see where I'm going with this, remember, the title of this blog is "I don't pretend to know"

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ashes to Ashes

Today, Ash Wednesday, used to be such a hoot for Catholics back in the day. If you went to mass early enough to get ashes before work, you could spend the entire day having people tell you your forehead was dirty. That was when Catholics were a tiny minority here in NC. Nowadays, with the combined invasions from Yankeeland and Yankeeland South (Florida) Catholics are as common as dandelions and nearly as welcomed.

That's not to say that we're any better understood by our Protestant brethren today than we were 50 years ago. Curious Protestants are still asking us if we believe in Jesus--I guess somebody told them we don't. "Jesus?" I'd say "you mean that bearded guy who won't let you drink, dance or believe in evolution?" They'd get all huffy and stalk away while I'd make a sign of the cross and invoke Mary (they really hate that.)

I understand that today some of the Protestant churches hold Ash Wednesday services. Who knows, this tradition might catch on and even Baptists will be going around with ashes on their foreheads and eating eating fish on Wednesdays and Fridays. They might even take up dancing.

Anyway, 6PM Ash Wednesday service tonight at OLG Church. The Choir will be singing, Yankees will be saying their prayers with thick Jersey accents and we'll all go home with dirty foreheads. See you there!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Red light

It's not every day that an old George Clinton song percolates up from the primordial ooze of my brain but today one did. I guess you have to be pretty old (or very funky) to remember "Flashlight." As a purveyor of music during the 70s and 80s, I got a serious case of Da Funk back then courtesy of Mr. Clinton and the whole P-Funk machine and it never really went away.

But the reason for the emergence of this song was what I have noticed to be a serious RED GREEN colorblindness in this town. Waiting for the light to change at the intersection of Holden and Friendly this morning; watching the pedestrian countdown go to zero, I made a prediction that at least one car would run the red light. I wasn't even close---three did. Normally I would see this as a recipe for disaster but in Greensboro, nobody notices when the light turns green either so somehow it all evens out. Maybe we're all distracted by stuff or just in a God-awful hurry but whatever it is, I really wish they would bring back red light cameras because someday, somebody is going to get hurt and I hope to heck it isn't me. I'm normally the guy behind you who will beep his horn if you don't move the second the light turns green but nowadays I'll look in both directions and if oncoming cars aren't slowing down fast enough, I'll wait.

Hopefully those of you who read this and start humming "Flashlight" when you approach an intersection, be careful and remember the yellow light doesn't mean GO VERY FAST

Friday, February 12, 2010

Weighing in

OK, I'll admit it, I'm paranoid. It's probably a result of living through both the McCarthy and the Nixon eras. The fact that I don't watch Fox news, I think, means I've made real progress in conquering my fear of the unknown or at least the unknowable. But when UNCG announced a kick off of "Healthy UNCG" my paranoia kicked in. This can only mean one thing: they're going to weigh me and find out I'm too fat--that my BMI is in the red zone and that I need to be paying twice as much for my health insurance!

Sure, they've made the Kickoff seem like a bundle of fun with "free food" (watch what the fatties eat), "games" (make the fatties sweat) and "more" (the "more" probably being the required weigh-in). The flyer announces that "Healthy UNCG is a program to support employee well-being" which I assume is code for "we'll love you even if you're a fat, disgusting blob of steaming adipose tissue--but not forever."

There's a rumor going around (yes, I started it) that those who don't measure up at the kick off are going to begin every day with a weigh-in a la "Biggest Loser" and 30 minutes of calisthenics. Those of us with a BMI over 25 will get mandatory nutrition counseling and have our lunches examined. If within 60 days our BMI is not under 25, we'll begin required Boot Camp staffed by the most aggressive, fatty-hating personal trainers the Student Recreation Center has to offer (I'm hoping for Olga but only because I like her tattoos.) Those of us failing to make the grade will see our health insurance premiums go up to $1000 per month. If that isn't enough to make your lose your appetite, you're hopeless.

Personally I'm looked forward to dropping 50 pounds and extending my lifespan by 20 minutes. Thanks UNCG for caring. Now, if you could only stop terrorists from stealing my underwear I'd be great.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The most powerful communication tool since the printing press and this is all you can think of?

This is going to sound elitist or at least grumpy-old-man-ish. It's about the paucity of "clever" in social media. Here we have a growing array of social media applications (just added Google Buzz) and devices galore with which to access them and so little of anything interesting to read.

One of my greatest pet peeves (responsible for many unfollows and unfriends) is the posted aphorism or quotation. What is the point? Do somebody else's words of wisdom mean anything to you or are you just too dumb or lazy to write something original. Maybe some of you think you are passing along encouraging words to your equally dim friends but Ben Franklin wore this thing out in the 1700s. It's OK to read them and draw inspiration from them but don't pass them along as if you're the only one to discover them. Recently, a respected friend quoted a passage about the importance of being original and didn't see the irony. Upon reflection I just realized that most people aren't clever or original and need something to say that sounds clever or original even if they didn't say it. It's complicated.

Facebook, because of it nearly universal acceptance by the millenials is probably the worst example of dullness run amok. Young people without much experience using words in interesting ways, post the least amusing things imaginable and with great frequency. I wish I would learn to NOT post anything on young people's pages because I know that, all day long, I'm going to be informed of the inane things their friends post after me (and YES, I know I could disable this Facebook feature but there are people whose responses I may be interested in reading.) If your friend is having a birthday and all you can think of to write is "Happy Birthday" that's really sad. Better you don't write anything at all. Unfortunately, this proliferation of boring isn't restricted to the young. Of all my 300 some-odd Facebook friends, there are fewer than ten who have something interesting to say and several of those only because they're good at ferreting out interesting things from the Internet.

Twitter is a bit of a wasteland for many of the same reasons but also because of the sheer randomness of it. Every day I wonder why in God's name some of these people are following me and worse, why am I following them back? But Twitter and Facebook are numbers games and how many friends or followers you have are measures of your social media worth. I have one follower who only tweets info about getting more followers but I really don't want any more dumbasses filling up my Twitter feed with garbage causing me to miss something I might really want to see.

My wife is extremely sensitive about her followers and takes it very personally when one of them stops following her--especially if she thinks she may be still following them. I haven't quite figured out why people follow me in the first place so don't notice or care when they stop--unless it's someone I know personally and then I want to know why they don't love me anymore. Surely it's not because I wasn't clever enough because I work hard at that; harder than I should probably.

I guess trading bon mots with people of my same generation is the best I'm going to do. At least they get my cultural references and respond thoughtfully most of the time. Of course the smartest thing for me to do is ignore social media altogether and restrict my cleverness to my rants here but so much of blogging is just hollering down a well it makes no sense to waste time here either. Maybe I should start writing cranky letters to the editor like the other old cranks. maybe then the would care. Nah